Early on a sunny Monday morning, 140 Year 9 students from Heartlands Academy descended upon the Tally Ho Conference Centre in Birmingham, where they would spend the day exploring future goals and GCSE choices. As the students entered the large conference room, they were greeted by the Enabling Enterprise staff and a large team of volunteers from PwC and the STEM network, who would be supporting them in planning the next steps.

As the students settled into teams, Mike gave the welcoming speech and promised the students a series of exciting challenges, which would help them bridge the gap between school and future life. After all the teams had introduced themselves, the first challenge was revealed – using only newspaper, sellotape, and glue, the students had 15 minutes to build a 1 metre tall ladder, with a step for every team member. The Enabling Enterprise judges would also be awarding points for the best ladders – so the day would kick start with a competitive edge! The teams got to work quickly, and amongst the flurry of cutting and sticking, the judges spotted some impressive demonstrations of team work, creativity and engineering talent.

After the judges had surveyed the construction site, the students continued the competition to the next round – a Careers Quiz– to test the students’ knowledge of the working world and different qualification routes. The students pondered and debated on a variety of questions – from the most popular non-compulsory GCSE option (Design Technology) to the age of the youngest person to sit Maths GCSE (5 years).

Once the results had been collected, the students had the opportunity to apply what they had learned by quizzing volunteers about their motivations, the topics they studied at school, and the skills and experience they needed for their work. Since the volunteers represented a variety of sectors (from chartered accountants to genetic technologists), the students enjoyed discussing a diverse range of career and qualification routes, as well as sharing their own aspirations with experienced professionals.

After a quick break, the teams re-gathered to face the next stage of the day, which would explore the connections between different qualifications and career choices. After watching video narratives from an Accountant, Electrician, Nurse, Personal Trainer and Architect, the teams played ‘Careers Bingo’, where they matched qualifications with the different professions and reflected upon the surprises. By sorting out different qualifications into the ‘Next Steps Buckets’, the students learned about the variety of different options available to them after GCSE and began to reflect upon the paths they may take in the future.

After a delicious lunch outside in the sunshine, the students explored a wider range of careers by embarking on a NASA mission to the moon, where they needed to select six professionals who would establish a new civilisation. The students engaged in lively debates about the skills involved with different careers and prioritised the professions which were most beneficial to society. Having explored a wide scope of future possibilities, the students settled down to reflect upon their own aspirations, by interviewing each other about their achievements, motivations, and most influential experiences so far. These reflections were then transformed into ‘Vision Boards’ – a spectacular array of collages – which connected the students’ past experiences with their future goals. In the final exercise, the students used their vision boards to help them narrow down their GCSE choices, by judging which subject areas best suited their strengths, interests, and career goals.
At the end of the day, each student had gained fresh insights and new ideas, which would guide them through the upcoming options evening at school. Since all the teams had been enthusiastic, productive, and creative, the Enabling Enterprise judges struggled to find an overall winner. After much deliberation, Anna awarded the winning prize to Team Pineapple, for their team work and positivity.

Congratulations to Heartlands Academy for all your hard work and enthusiasm! We hope you have gained a more active understanding of your future goals and have been encouraged to take those next steps. Thank you also to Tally Ho conference centre for hosting the event and making all the participants feel welcome. Thank you also to our wonderful volunteers for taking the time to share your insights and experiences.

Best of luck with your choices!

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